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Transcending the Self

Despite the popularity of object relations theories, these theories are often abstract, with the relation between theory and clinical technique left vague and unclear. In his widely praised Object Relations Theories and Psychopathology: A Comprehensive Text (1994), Frank Summers provided critical accounts of the work of each major object relations theorist with an eye to understanding how each theorist approached issues of technique. One point of his undertaking was to demonstrate how object relations theorists differ among themselves, even contradict one another, in providing guidelines for clinical work. Now, in Transcending the Self: An Object Relations Model of Psychoanalytic Therapy, Summers answers the need for an integrative object relations model that can be understood and applied by the clinician in the daily conduct of psychoanalytic therapy. It is the object relations viewpoint, for Summers, that best addresses contemporary criticisms of classical psychoanalysis and ego psychology while retaining the depth-psychological focus that has always been the strength of psychoanalytic therapy. Drawing on recent infancy research, developmental psychology, and the works of major theorists, including Bollas, Benjamin, Fairbairn, Guntrip, Kohut, and Winnicott, Summers melds diverse object-relational contributions into a coherent viewpoint with broad clinical applications. The object relations model emerges as a distinct amalgam of interpersonal/relational and interpretive perspectives. It is a model that can help patients undertake the most gratifying and treacherous of personality journeys: that aiming at the transcendence of the childhood self. Self-transcendence, in Summers' sense, means moving beyond the profound limitations of early life via the therapeutically mediated creation of a newly meaningful and authentic sense of self. Summers uses a full-length case presentation as the vehicle for situating his object relations model between two broad psychoanalytic paradigms, ego psychology and relational psychoanalysis. Following two chapters that present the empirical and theoretical basis of the model, he launches into clinical applications by presenting the concept of therapeutic action that derives from the model. Then, in three successive chapters, he applies the model to patients traditionally conceptualized as borderline, narcissistic, and neurotic. He concludes with a chapter that addresses more broadly the craft of conducting psychoanalytic therapy. Filled with richly detailed case discussions, Transcending the Self provides practicing clinicians with a powerful demonstration of how psychoanalytic therapy informed by an object relations model can effect radical personality change. It is an outstanding example of integrative theorizing in the service of a real-world therapeutic approach.
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Table of Contents

One Case, Three Views. Self and Object. The Fate of the Buried Self. Transcending the Self. Fragile Self, Fused Object. Defective Self, Protective Object. Unworthy Self, Bad Object. Conclusion: The Art of Psychoanalytic Therapy.

About the Author

Frank Summers, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, is a training and supervising analyst at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis and an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Medical School. A member of the faculties of the Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis, the Minnesota Psychoanalytic Institute, and the Wisconsin Psychoanalytic Institute, Dr. Summers maintains a private practice of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic therapy in Chicago, IL.


"In this very thoughtful and important work, Frank Summers presents a unique integration of ego psychological and relational theories and then, relying on several extended clinical examples, demonstrates the implications of this integrative viewpoint for understanding the nature of therapeutic action in psychoanalytic therapy with a wide range of patients. Highly recommended as both a theoretical and clinical contribution." - Sidney J. Blatt, Ph.D., Yale University "Dr. Summers presents us with a new paradigm for psychoanalytic technique that is most welcome at this time. He uses in-depth clinical case illustrations to compare the relevant ideas of ego psychology, relational psychoanalysis, and object relations theories, and then creatively adds his own stamp in the form of his astute appreciation of "transference." His notion of self-transcendence calls to mind Michelangelo's remark that, in creating a sculpture, he simply cut away excess marble in order to free the image he always knew was there. To this simile, Dr. Summers adds the clinical insight that the analysand's latent potential, as it becomes freed from its symptom signifiers, becomes an enthusiastic coparticipant in the transcending process. This very worthwhile contribution to the technique of psychoanalytic therapy is warmly recommended to all mental health professionals." - James S. Grotstein, M.D., Training and Supervising Analyst, Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Institute

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